Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Cheque out Dramaturgy: Nikki Hill @ Edfringe 2015

The award winning Nottingham New Theatre
presents a brand new original piece at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August. 

Waitress, Ivy, explores the pain, hope and potential catastrophe that characterises the mechanics of everyday life, through the mind of someone suffering from mental illness. 

**** “Funny, involving and sentimental” – Ed Fringe Review (NNT at Fringe 2014) 

Nikki Hill’s writing offers the audience a chance to experience the conflict of a mind suffering with depression and confronts them as Ivy decides if she wants to collect the cheque on her life and commit suicide. There are moments of both cynical hilarity and heart-breaking grief as Cheque Please illuminates the important philosophical question; is your life worth it? 

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Nikki Hill: It began with a feeling I suppose. When I was struggling with depression often people would tell me they understood, but if they had never experienced a mental illness I never felt like they truly did. I wanted to humanise it, and show the audience a personal account, that follows one character to help people understand what it’s really like. 

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
There is still a lot of ignorance and stigma attached to mental illness. The festival is the perfect place to perform something personal that can open up a dialogue with a much wider audience. 

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They probably won’t see what they expect. The whole idea is to break open myths and misconceptions to present a real and brutally honest account of what depression can feel like, or does feel like for this individual. Whether you’ve experienced mental illness or not you can expect to recognise at least some of the same emotions Ivy goes through. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
The script uses monologues to navigate the play around events in Ivy’s life. It’s structure presents the audience with this concept of duality - they get a greater insight into Ivy’s mind and feelings as well as seeing the event. The audience can then see how Ivy’s - usually hidden - feelings colour what seem to be ordinary events like going to work or having a dinner party. 

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work -  have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
Sarah Kane was certainly an influence. Although this isn’t quite as in your face as her work, reading 4:48 Psychosis definitely had an impact on me and what I was trying to write. She manages to capture both the intense brutality of depression and the alluring beauty that can make it so difficult to escape from. I wanted to write something just as honest. Something that gives the audience a glimpse into what depression really feels like. 

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
It developed from a mix of fiction and verbatim. Ivy’s monologues where she explores what depression feels like inside her mind are mostly verbatim abstracts that I then created fictional conversations and relationships around to help visualise their impact on her life for the audience. The script is something I write on my own but the characters are certainly a collaborative process. Maddie - who plays Ivy - and I spent a long time creating a balance between the personal verbatim and the fictional aspects of the character. 

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work? 
The audience is everything. Ivy uses the audience to help her try to understand what is happening in her own brain. She uses them as a sounding board and sometimes as an escape from her own depression. Staging the play in thrust increases the sense of inclusivity, and Ivy makes the audience as part of the performance as the characters. 

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
I think you’ll just have to come and see it. 

‘The writing and directing of Nikki Hill is to be commended’ - Impact Magazine (Nikki Hill’s 40%

The Nottingham New Theatre is a provocative and exciting performance company, producing outstanding new writing and winning multiple awards at the National Student Drama Festival. It prides itself on being the only entirely student run theatre company in England. 

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